International assistance is vital to prevent the Central African Republic (CAR) from falling back into political crisis and potential new fighting as it prepares for elections next year after a decade of violence and conflict between Government and rebel forces, the top United Nations official for the country warned today.
“Concerted regional and international support and assistance are required at this very critical point to support the peace process,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Sahle-Work Zewde told the Security Council, stressing that the successful holding of elections by the end of April and the completion of the disarmament and demobilization programme for former fighters before the polls would determine the fate of the political process.
“Mediation efforts and local peace initiatives should continue to ensure that the forthcoming polls do not ignite a new political crisis,” she said, calling for a strengthening of UN capacity to provide political guidance during electoral and disarmament processes and international assistance to speed up the disarmament and demobilization programme.
“Only a clear course of action by the international and regional actors would help the CAR to shift from conflict to a post-conflict country. A peaceful CAR would contribute to stability in Central Africa, as the regional is experiencing security challenges,” she added, presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on the country to the 15-member Council.
To prepare for this hoped-for transition, the current UN Peacebuilding Support Office in CAR, know as BONUCA, set up in 2000, will as of 1 January be transformed into the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA), in an effort to build on peace agreements between the Government and rebel groups signed in Libreville, Gabon, in 2008 and subsequent political talks.
BONUCA is separate from the UN peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic and Chad, known as MINURCAT, which seeks to contain the effects of ethnic conflicts and a spill-over of the war between the Sudanese Government and rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people displaced in northern CAR and eastern Chad.
Ms. Zewde referred to these problems when he noted the current level of insecurity generated by those groups which have not yet joined the peace process, as well as the activities of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), that has also spilled over into CAR.
She called for an acceleration of the programme for the reintegrating ex-combatants of the various rebel groups that have signed the peace accord as well as the “disarmament of other armed groups, ethnic militias, self-defence and unconventional armed elements” not included in the process.
In his report, Mr. Ban also stressed the critical need for speedy disarmament and demobilization. “Any further delay in starting the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme may not only negatively affect the holding of elections as scheduled, but could also lead to the frustration of the ex-combatants waiting for disarmament, who may be forced to return to violence,” he wrote.
“Efforts must also be made to disarm the other armed groups, including the self-defence groups, the Kara, Goula and Rounga ethnic militias, who are not covered by the current disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.”